Art in Print

New research suggests why Van Gogh really chopped off his own ear

The dramatic decision of Vincent van Gogh to chop off his own ear has often been interpreted as a sign of his tortured genius, evidence of his mental illness or the final result of a heated row with fellow artist Paul Gauguin. However, new research suggests he may in fact have a more simple explanation: learning of his brother’s engagement.
Martin Bailey, the art historian who outlines his theory in a new book, made the discovery after piecing together unpublished family letters of the period. Van Gogh had learned of his brother Theo’s engagement on the day he decided to cut his own ear, December 23, 1888. Experts now believe it led to him fearing he would be left alone and penniless, losing the fraternal financial support which had allowed Van Gogh to devote his life to art. He said the news was likely to have heightened Van Gogh’s distressed state and “sparked off” the “destructive act” of self-mutilation.
Earlier this year, the famous story of how he delivered the ear to a prostitute was partially debunked, after new research showed the woman was in fact a maid who had worked as a cleaner in the brothel to earn money to pay medical bills. Bailey’s research throws further light on the incident. “Just a few hours before Van Gogh cut his ear he received a letter from Paris informing him that his brother had decided to marry.” he writes in his new book, Studio of the South: Van Gogh in Provence.
“Vincent feared that he would then ‘lose’ Theo, his closest companion. He was equally worried that his brother might withdraw the financial support which had enabled him to devote his life to art. The engagement may not have been the fundamental cause, but it sparked off this destructive act”, he added.
Via The Telegraph

Modern masterpieces set to make £69 million at Sotheby's

Kirche in Cassone (Church in Cassone — Landscape with Cypresses) by Gustav Klimt seized by the Nazis and lost for decades is to be one of three works expected to make more than £10 million at auction next month. The others are a still life, Pichet et fruits sur une table by Paul Cézanne, which has an upper estimate of £15 million. There is also a rare life-size sculpture, L'Homme qui marche I by Alberto Giacometti which could fetch as much as £18 million.
A contemporary sale in London two years ago pulled off a similar feat with £10 million-plus works, but this auction at Sotheby's will be the first of Impressionist and modern art to feature a trio of different works with such high estimates. The total estimate for the sale, on 3 February, is more than £69 million.
Klimt's landscape painted in 1913, is the only surviving example of the artist's celebrated series of paintings of Lake Garda, Italy. It was bought by Viktor Zuckerkandl and his wife, Paula, who were among the greatest patrons of the arts in turn-of-the-century Vienna. When the couple died childless in 1927, the painting went to Viktor's sister, Amalie Redlich, who in 1941 was deported to a Jewish ghetto. Her paintings were seized by the Gestapo and only much later did this work surface in a private collection.
Via Evening Standard

Think You Know China? ‘Tales of Our Time’ Will Make You Think Again

The Guggenheim Museum intends to broaden the artistic experience with its “Tales of Our Time,” opening on Friday, 4 November. Featuring eight newly commissioned projects by artists from Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as from China, this exhibition will present fresh approaches to contemporary art from the region, highlighting alternatives that depart sharply from news accounts and official histories. “Our exhibition is not trying to tell people what is right or wrong, but maybe one way we can think about it is, how can we diversify people’s thinking about Chinese art?” said Xiaoyu Weng, an associate curator.  
The participating artists are Zhou Tao, Chia-En Jao, Kan Xuan, Sun Xun and Tsang Kin-Wah; the team Sun Yuan & Peng Yu; and the three-member Yangjiang Group, most of whom will be making their American debuts. For this generation of artists, Chinese identity is a completely different experience from what it was for the previous generation, which suffered through the isolation and repression of the Cultural Revolution, from 1966 to 1976.
Many of these artists studied abroad, and most work internationally. “These artists concentrate on individual identities, rather than Chinese identity, but all build on quite Chinese topics,” Mr. Hou said. “It’s really about what happens at this moment in Chinese society that provokes debates, which on the one hand is a globally important question, and on the other, really a very individual interpretation.”
In such an exhibition, China is no longer an exotic territory or a national identity, but a cultural construct framed as much by current social conditions as by 5,000 years of history. Ms. Weng said, “I want people to think about geopolitics, I want people to think about contested landscapes, I want people to enter the exhibitions and think about concepts and ideas, not a set of identities.”
Via The New York Times

Etel Adnan: Interview

Etel Adnan, the 91-year-old Lebanese-American artist and writer, executes her small-scale abstract oil paintings with a palette knife. She has always worked this way. “I like to say something in one go. Brushes you have to wash and it takes a lot of time. With the palette knife there is less interruption as you just wipe off the paint with a piece of tissue and carry on.”, she said.
Adnan’s geometric style of painting, with its grainy juxtaposed bands of colour, has often been compared to that of the Franco-Russian Nicolas de Staël but the two differ on one substantial point. Whereas de Staël would repeatedly go back over and repaint areas of his work, once Adnan has laid down a mass of colour she never goes back. It is a style utterly in keeping with her decisive personality. In conversation Adnan is no ditherer. Her opinions on everything from the blowback effect of colonial education on the rise of Isis to postwar Expressionist American art as an epic and effervescent form of soft power sadly lacking today are trenchant and well argued.
Adnan describes herself as an artist of “epiphanies”. In other words, she is an artist of sudden and striking realisations. She only began to paint at the age of 34 after leaving France and arriving in the US in 1955. Her mentor was an American artist, Ann O’Hanlon, who ran the art department at the Dominican College of San Rafael in California where Adnan was teaching the philosophy of art.
After many years of moving about, Adnan now lives in Paris, where her home, which she shares with her long-term partner, the Syrian sculptor Simone Fattal, is a well-appointed Belle Époque apartment near the Church of Saint-Sulpice. In a backroom she has her studio where she alternates between two wooden tables: one for painting and sketching and one for writing. Adnan’s latest solo show is a career retrospective at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. Adnan has somewhat bittersweet feelings about the show, which exhibits her paintings and poetry, as well as her designs for tapestries and ceramics.
Via Financial Times